By Dave Weatherall
The thought of winter blizzards brings a smile to uOttawa Facilities employee Georges Monrose’s face.
“You know, biking in the winter, it’s kind of like being in a hot tub. It’s cold outside, but you’re warm. I like it,” Monrose says.
He adds: “This was my first winter biking to work. When I started, I weighed 215 pounds — I’m down to 175 now. I don’t have to buy a gym membership, I don’t need coffee to help me wake up in the morning and I steer clear of sick people on the bus during flu season. Biking to work really is the greatest thing ever.”
For employees like Monrose, André Legault and Michael Downing, biking to work is a year-round affair that means they tackle all the elements, including Ottawa’s unforgiving winters. (See Monrose’s rear wheel after a snowy ride below.)
Winter conditions also take their toll on bike components, though Monrose managed to replace some parts this spring, including scoring a rear cassette and front cog for free at uOttawa Bike Co-op.
Snow-laden roads squeeze the same amount of traffic into tighter spaces, which can pose a challenge to cyclists searching for room. But it can also lead to some surprising exchanges with drivers.
“I had some people yelling at me one time, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying,” Legault said. “When I got closer, all I heard was, ‘Keep going, buddy, don’t quit, you’re the best.’ You can only get that on a bike.”
For Legault, cycling home is also an opportunity to process the events of the day.
“That feeling of being free, of not being stuck in traffic, is what I find rewarding,” he said. “If you have frustration during the day, it all goes away on the bike path.”
Downing, who rides a fatbike in the winter and a sleek carbon fibre road bike once the snow melts, finds winter cycling just as enjoyable as summer rides.
“I always hated having to put my bike away for the winter,” he said. “For winter biking, I just need to change my route to travel on cleared roads, ensure my headlight is always charged and make sure I have the right layers of clothing for each type of weather and temperature.”